Tuesday, October 8, 2013

A new front against climate change.

They've figured out a way to turn carbon dioxide emissions into baking soda. (The only other ingredients required are salt and water.) And apparently, they can do it for about $20 per ton.

This is great news. The baking soda industry, if it completely was sourced by this stuff, could only absorb the output of about 200-250 power plants, but there's other things they're working on turning the carbon dioxide emissions into. Limestone, in particular, is promising. It can be used as fertilizer, for construction, or even just dumped in a pile for all it matters.

Fertilizer is currently a major user of fossil fuels - we make them out of petroleum. If we could get them instead of carbon emissions, it would reduce a lot of fears about food insecurity in the Third World, and fertilizer inputs could become sustainable - sorta. (Fertilizer runoff would still cause algae blooms and dead zones in big bodies of water.)

Also, it captures the other stuff present in coal-based carbon dioxide emissions. The sulfur can be turned into hydrochloric acid, and the mercury can be mined for rare earth minerals, and all this stuff is highly valuable and can now be produced sustainably instead of in a way that's harmful to the environment.

This is a really promising development. If coal climbs back at all, this will be its only way. Not that I'm really rooting for coal, but given that its use in the Third World is increasing even as we stop using it here, figuring out some way to use it sustainably will be one front in the war on climate change that absolutely must be won.

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